The minefields of an inter-religion marriage

Recently, one of the the husband’s relatives invited us over for dinner – it was a small birthday celebration for their four year old daughter. Since it was Muharram (the Muslim period of mourning), they weren’t doing anything fancy, but it was the first time we would be going to their house, and it was a child’s birthday, so we had to take her a gift. The only problem was, it was a weekday, and getting back from work, going to a gift shop and then for dinner would have been tricky.

The (supposed) solution: We thought we’d give her a story book I had picked up for another friend’s four year old daughter (we never ended up visiting them, so the book was still with us).

The problem: I got home from work, found said book, looked at the list of stories, and thought uh-uh! You see, it was a beautifully illustrated Book of Classic Indian Stories for Children. The problem? The huge number of stories from Hindu mythology. Sample this:

The Brahmin Who Ate Up A God
Bhishma’s Sacrifice
Krishna and Kalia
The Kidnapping of Sita
Shiva and Sati
How Ganesha Got His Elephant Head

Almost the entire Hindu pantheon was in there! Of course, there were other stories too, but the Hindu mythology stores outnumbered them by a huge margin.

Here’s where the minefield comes in:

1) It would be the first time I was going to their house, and they lived with parents, who are likely to be a lot a bit more conservative than youngsters.

2) It was Muharram, so a gift like this would be hugely inappropriate.

3) Since I am a Hindu, it would look like I’m trying to force sell my culture on to their daughter.

4) It would might spoil relationships.

Ridiculous, I know. But given the whole Hindu-Muslim divide and how difficult it has been for some of the older people in the husband’s family to accept that he married out of religion, and a Hindu to boot, the book was completely inappropriate.

One of the husband’s aunts finally accepted me and said she “realizes that I am a girl who has been brought up with excellent values” and admits that she “treated her very unfairly” after eight years of marriage – yes, eight!

So, the only solution was to make a mad dash to the market before the shops shut down, which we managed – barely. We bought her coloring books and crayons. Said gift was a HUGE hit with the young girl – she finished coloring two pictures while we were there! – and the dinner went off very well.

What can I say? It’s all in a day’s work! 😉

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  1. It’s so interesting to read this, it can be so easy to be misunderstood; you’re trying to give a gift without any hidden agenda and it can appear as if you’re trying to force something on someone. It’s better to be safe than sorry in these situations, I’m glad it all turned out well.

    • I’m lucky to have a very supportive husband and quite an accommodating and understanding family. But yes, these are things we do need to be sensitive to.

  2. This post was required, much required so that I am now clear what to gift if I happen to meet my husband to be’s relatives kids. If I am not wrong you married a muslim isnt it, the post reflected that? So how’s life with him especially the family, the inlaws? I would join you next year for sure, the same hindu-muslim category.

    • Yup – I’m married to a Muslim. We don’t live in a join family, so it’s all fine. Most of his relatives accepted me without any problem. Those that haven’t, we don’t visit! His dad was light years ahead of his generation (and ours) so I had absolutely no problems there. I find some things hard to accept – like separate sections for women and men at functions, but we don’t attend too many of them.

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